01/11/2013 12:48 EST | Updated 03/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Japan's benchmark Nikkei index jumps on Abe's stimulus package; Other key indexes in Asia fall

BANGKOK - Japan's Nikkei stock index jumped Friday after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a massive spending package intended to breathe life into the country's moribund economy. But other Asian benchmarks fell after the U.S. reported higher-than-expected jobless claims.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo gained 1.4 per cent to 10,801.45 following Abe's announcement of an anti-recession stimulus package of more than 20 trillion yen ($224 billion) that is intended to add 2 per cent to Japan's real growth.

Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, which won a parliamentary election last month, has promised major public works spending and other measures to revive the economy, which has been mired for years in deflation, or continually dropping prices, which deadens economic activity.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.3 per cent to 23,292.16. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.3 per cent to 2,000.92. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.3 per cent to 4,709.50. Benchmarks in Singapore and mainland China also fell while those in the Philippines and New Zealand rose.

Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong, said the market dips are likely being driven by investors who are cashing in shares after recent market rallies.

"Unless there is some exceptional good news, for Hong Kong, they have already shot up to a high level in the short term. There's not a good chance for a breakthrough. So we expect the market goes into consolidation or some profit-taking. The market maybe will have a pullback, especially in the short term."

Monthly inflation data showing a jump in food prices in China didn't help sentiment. The prices of vegetables rose 14.8 per cent after a severe winter hurt crop yields.

While below the government's 4 per cent inflation target for the year, the monthly inflation rate of 2.5 per cent — a six-month high — could limit the government's options for responding to any new slowdown in growth.

Among individual stocks, Japan's Sharp Corp. soared 9.6 per cent while Fast Retailing gained 4.7 per cent. Hong Kong-listed GOME Electrical Appliances fell 2.9 per cent.

On Thursday, a sharp improvement in Chinese trade boosted helped boost Wall Street despite an uptick in weekly applications for unemployment benefits. The U.S. Labor Department said applications rose 4,000 to 371,000 last week, the most in five weeks.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.6 per cent to 13,471.22.The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.5 per cent to 3,121.76. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.8 per cent to 1,472.12, its highest close in five years.

Michael Hewson of CMC Markets said in an email commentary that the data was a "slight disappointment" but that investors put aside their concerns about the U.S. after China's strong trade data, which suggests global demand might be recovering.

Benchmark oil for February delivery was up 3 cents to $93.86 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 72 cents to finish at $93.82 a barrel in New York on Thursday.

In currencies, the dollar rose to 89.07 yen from 88.19 yen late Thursday in New York. The euro rose to $1.362 from $1.3254. The euro jumped Thursday after the European Central Bank left its interest rate at the record low of 0.75 per cent. In a press conference, ECB President Mario Draghi said the eurozone economy should start to grow again later this year.


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